Several of Stuart MacGill's team-mates have backed him to keep his Test spot - provided he is fit and wants to play - for the Boxing Day match against India. MacGill is trying to get his ailing body in shape after a persistent knee problem and numbness in his hand affected his output in the second Test against Sri Lanka in Hobart.
Michael Clarke believes that if MacGill works hard on his fitness in the lead-up he should remain Australia's first-choice spinner. "If he can come through and say, 'I'm ready to go boys', I'm backing him all the way," Clarke told the Australian.
"He was a bit stiff and sore in the second dig the other day but we had a four-day game and then two Tests back-to-back and that's a lot of cricket. Now he has time to take a bit of a rest.
"Hopefully that will set him up to get whatever he needs right and to make sure he's ready to go for the Boxing Day Test. If his mind is right and he feels ready to go, then no doubt he will be an unbelievable bowler as he has been in the Test matches he's played for Australia and the games he's played for New South Wales over a long time."
MacGill faces a race against time to prepare his body for the India series and has hinted at possible retirement if he determines that his injuries cannot be adequately treated. He is seeking the advice of John Orchard, a rugby league doctor, as he spends the next few weeks working on his fitness.
Brett Lee said MacGill should remain at the head of Australia's slow-bowling list even after his Hobart struggles. "The bloke's a class act and still has so much to offer Australian cricket," Lee told the Herald Sun. "I'm very, very confident he has what it takes to lead our attack after Christmas. Nothing against the other spinners in Australia, but going on his record Stuey is still the best."
If Australia decided not to choose MacGill, Hogg would almost certainly be next in line. MacGill said in the Sun-Herald it had been awkward for Hogg to be chosen in the 13-man squad for the first Test in Brisbane as the pair was subjected to "a dead-set bowl-off". "If I don't play in Melbourne Hoggy will do a great job," MacGill said. "He's been the best bowler in the Australian one-day team for two years."
However, Andrew Symonds said MacGill deserved to keep his place after he fought through his knee and hand problems in Hobart. "The easy way out would have been to say to Ricky Ponting, 'Mate, I can't bowl'," Symonds wrote in his column in News Ltd newspapers. "The fact he was willing to have a go and help knock over the Sri Lankans is testament to the character and spirit we want in the side."